Recruiting for Parents

How To Avoid Being Overbearing Parents at Athletic Events

coach keeping track of t-ball results like an overbearing parent at an athletic event

(Flickr – USAGAPG)

What kind of sports parent are you?

We’ve written before about the ways parents should comport themselves on the sidelines, or how young players should learn to play skillfully, rather than for victory. And one of our favorite bloggers, a softball coach and partner of ours, Amanda Scarborough, wrote an open letter to the overbearing dads at softball games.

Hey Dads,

I want you to think for a second about the way you talk to your daughter (or the way your husband talks to your daughter) when she is practicing or playing a game. Is it positive? Is it empowering? Is it in a good tone? Now think for a second more. Are you being honest with yourself and is how you think you are talking to your daughter the actual way? How you are talking to your daughter affects her far more than you know.

We all know overbearing parents at athletic events.

Ahhh, the beloved sports parent. They come in all different shapes and sizes. All different volumes and demeanors. From the “As long as you’re having fun!” parent, to the “Your left hand was about 4 degrees off on the baseline jumper you took with 8:47 left to play in the 3rd quarter,” and everyone in between.

For better or worse, sports parents have an effect on the way student-athletes play the game.

The encouragement of parents or guardians could be a huge part of a student-athlete’s success. Their support and dedication to their children, and by default, to the sports their children are dedicated to, could be the biggest reason to make it to practice, have the right equipment, or look forward to game day. On the other hand, parents’ pointers and critiques can feel like over-involvement, and add a whole new level of pressure and negative energy to the athlete.

What do you say in the car ride home from a game?

If you’re a parent reading this, take a minute to think about where some might say you would fall on the spectrum. In a study, hundreds of collegiate student-athletes were asked to recall their best and worst memories from youth and high school sports. The overwhelming response for their worst memory: “The ride home from games with my parents.” The overwhelming best memory: “Hearing my parents say ‘I love to watch you play.’”

I love to watch you play.

At first, the response surprised me. But as I think about the phrase, it’s really quite wonderful, and I believe it sums up what, at the end of the day, most parents really feel but often articulate poorly. Hearing “You played great!” is nice, but not when your son or daughter had their lowest scoring game of the season, and clearly hearing, “What the heck- you were totally off tonight!” doesn’t settle well, no matter what the circumstance. Even “I love to watch you win” can perhaps imply that, in return, “I can’t stand it when you lose.”

But “I love to watch you play”? Good or bad – I love to watch you play. What could create a better feeling? My parents get joy out of simply seeing me play and participate.

I encourage you to think about and evaluate the type of sports parent you are – and maybe give this phrase a whirl the next time you hug your son or daughter after a game, or in the car on the ride home.

We also love a good list – and this recently posted Top 12 Ways to Be a Happier Sports Parent in 2015 takes the process a whole lot deeper.

About the author
Laura Chmiel

Laura Chmiel is a marketing coordinator and a lead writer for NCSA Athletic Recruiting. As someone with a passion for athletics and education, she graduated from Indiana university with a B.S. in Elementary Education. After school, she gained first-hand experience helping student-athletes and their families get to college.